Mayor Kay Pippin and the Jackson City Council have proclaimed June 13, 2019, Scott Coleman Day in Jackson.
Artist Coleman is more than a watercolorist. He is a local historian. In recent times we routinely rely on photographs to capture images: moments, events, and buildings. But we are lucky here in Butts County to have a unique visual history of our region, created in light and color and line. Over 35 of Coleman’s paintings of historic homes and iconic buildings in our city and county are on permanent display at the Idlewilde Event Center at Indian Springs State Park.
As Arts Council member Candace Carmichael puts it, “Scott has captured the soul of the community.” She thinks he has been able to create and preserve so many iconic Butts County landmarks and images because he was born here and loves the places and people.
While that is undoubtedly true, love of a place doesn’t always translate to great work. But study, practice, diligence and courage can.
Coleman’s parents and teachers recognized his talent early. They encouraged his doodling. His parents provided lessons, putting him on a bus every Saturday morning for many years to study with teachers at the High Museum. At 15, he was called on to do lettering and sketches for the city of Jackson’s entry into a statewide beautification contest. He earned an art degree from the University of Georgia, served in the military and sketched art and architecture all over Europe in a self-designed independent master’s program. He worked in commercial art for many years, designing magazine covers, advertisements and church bulletins among other things.
But all the while he was painting. Along with his love of architectural paintings and drawings, he also paints trees, flowers, all of nature, human forms, everyday items — even cupcakes.
In addition to the body of artwork that he has created, Coleman has worked to foster art appreciation in our area. About 25 years ago, Coleman co-founded the Butts County Council for the Arts and began curating the Butts County Permanent Art Collection housed in the Butts County Administration Building and at Jackson City Hall.
I became an admirer of Scott Coleman’s work 30 years before I met him. When he was a young boy learning to wield pencils and brushes, I was a young girl learning to appreciate light and line and color and beauty. I saw art all around me in moments of attention and thrilled to it. But all I could do was feel and admire.
Scott saw art all around him, and was determined to capture it, to save those ephemeral moments of awareness on canvas. But one does not have to be an art lover to appreciate Scott’s work, though it is high quality and worthy of appreciation. One need only love and appreciate Butts County.
Coleman says that the process of collecting these 36 Idlewilde paintings was a monumental task. It took him over six months to gather the pieces from owners across the South and to make prints and frame them. “I could not have done it without the support of Frankie Willis. In fact it was Frankie’s idea!” Willis conceived the idea that a collection of Coleman’s architectural paintings would enhance the halls and meeting rooms at Idlewilde.
David Whyte has defined human work, as “ a pilgrimage of identity, the place where the self meets the world.” This is true of Coleman’s work. His identity and his sense of place are partially revealed in this small part of his legacy.
When you next attend an event at the Idlewilde Event Center, take a moment to pay attention to the art on the walls, the art that is part of the architectural history of Butts County. And the next time you see Scott Coleman, tell him how much you appreciate him as an artist or him as a community leader.